Urologist elected to House, while docs’ numbers in Congress drop

November 29, 2016

In the 2016 elections, a urologist was elected to the House of Representatives but overall physician representation in Congress has declined to just 3%.

Based on a partnership with Urology Times, articles from the American Association of Clinical Urologists (AACU) provide updates on legislative processes and issues affecting urologists. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Contact the AACU government affairs office at 847-517-1050 or info@aacuweb.org for more information.

 

The Doctors' Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives will include a newly elected Florida urologist when the 115th Congress convenes Jan. 3, 2017. Neal Dunn, MD, secured 67% of the vote in Florida's 2nd District to become the first urologist in modern memory to serve in the federal legislature.

Overall, the number of physicians serving in Congress will decline, from 18 to 14. Candidates supported by UROPAC - Urology's Advocate on Capitol Hill were overwhelmingly successful, achieving a 96% win rate.

Urologist elected to the House

Earlier this year, Dr. Dunn secured the Republican nomination for a seat in the U.S. Congress representing Florida's 2nd Congressional District (Tallahassee, Panama City). Dr. Dunn founded Panama City Urology Center, Bay Regional Cancer Center, and the Advanced Urology Institute, so he knows firsthand the health care issues that affect the urologic community.

In a recent interview, Dr. Dunn looked forward to his participation in the Doctors Caucus, finding that "…many members of Congress have come to respect the input of the [physician members of the House and Senate] relating to health care decisions far more than in the past. The House Republicans have offered a very new, very different approach. It is reasonable, it is achievable, and it is far more affordable. The Doc Caucus will be deeply involved in promulgating this legislation in 2017."

Some physician candidates fare poorly

At least two dozen other physicians came up short in 2016 general election campaigns, most of whom challenged incumbents. Of note, urologist Anil Kumar, MD (D), was outpolled by Rep. David Trott (R-MI-11) in a race to represent a district outside of Detroit. Two other Michigan physicians fell to incumbents on Nov. 8. Libertarian Erwin Haas, MD, lost to Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI-2) and emergency room physician Howard Klausner, MD, was defeated by Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI-14). In Nevada, another emergency room doctor who currently serves in the U.S. House, Rep. Joe Heck, DO (R-NV-3), lost to Democrat Catherin Cortez Masto to assume the seat left vacant by retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D).

Related: Relationships between urologists, policy makers yield positive results

Two other incumbent physicians in the House of Representatives fell in a "jungle primary" for the Louisiana Senate seat vacated by Sen. David Vitter (R). Rep. Charles Boustany, MD (R-LA-3), narrowly lost the chance to compete in a Dec. 3, 2016 runoff for that seat, while Rep. John Fleming, MD (R-LA-4), was bested by at least six other candidates.

These three losses are particularly impactful, since, along with the retirements of Rep. Dan Benishek, MD (R-MI-1), and Rep. Jim McDermott, MD (D-WA-7), they diminish the number of physicians serving in Congress to the lowest point in nearly 10 years.

For a full list the election wins for physicians, losses, and more, please see http://aacuweb.org/app/document/17220182

Next: UROPAC-supported candidates overwhelmingly successful

 

UROPAC-supported candidates overwhelmingly successful

In 43 of 45 general election races, candidates supported by UROPAC – Urology's Advocate on Capitol Hill were elected with an average margin of victory of 34% in the House of Representatives and 20% in the Senate.

Physicians on UROPAC's slate included thoracic surgeon Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD (R-IN-8); anesthesiologist Rep. Andy Harris, MD (R-MD-1), and two OB/GYNs, Reps. Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX-26) and Phil Roe, MD (R-TN-1).

High-ranking members of important committees were also recipients of UROPAC's strategic giving. Santa Fe urologist Vince Fiorica, MD, delivered a PAC contribution to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-3) at a local event, and a lobbyist associated with organized urology carried a donation to D.C. representatives of Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Related: AACU conference assembles ‘urology advocacy armada’

Dr. Dunn's recent victory deserves to be celebrated, but a few statistics show there is much work to be done. Physicians will account for approximately 3% of the 535 members of the U.S. House and Senate. By comparison, physicians made up 11% and 5% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, respectively.

Meanwhile, in the soon-to-adjourn 114th Congress, 38% of all members are lawyers, the third most reported occupation behind "public servant" and "business." Urologists are encouraged to consider the myriad ways their voices can be united in support of vital programs and priorities, including political fundraising and grassroots engagement.

Dr. Dunn offered an inside perspective: "Early money is often the best money,” he said. “UROPAC contributed to my campaign early in the cycle and helped enable early momentum for my campaign. It is vital that urology maintain its influence within Congress, and UROPAC is a critically important element to maintaining that voice."

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